When Tom and Karen found out they were pregnant with their third child, they were mainly worried about their financial situation and their ability to get by with another mouth to fed. At the time, Karen was 39 and decided to have the Bart’s screening test, which can indicate if a baby could have Down syndrome.
One week later they were told their child had a 1 in 12 chance of Down syndrome. Tom told the Mirror Online about the experience. He said, “In the UK, 1 in 200 is classed as high, so 1 in 12 felt almost inevitable. When Karen called with the results, I rushed to be with her.”
After the initial test, the hospital offered the couple an amniocentesis test and six days later doctors confirmed that their baby would have the condition. But when asked by the medical staff if they wanted an abortion, the couple refused.
Tom said, “Karen and I both wanted to carry on with the pregnancy – we didn’t even consider the alternative, so when the question was raised by staff we dismissed it. They seemed surprised. I assume because a shocking 90% of UK pregnancies with Down’s syndrome are terminated.
Despite the insurmountable evidence that shows that children with Down syndrome are gifts to society and not burdens, people are still pressured and encouraged to abort. And, sadly, this was no different for this family. Tom became very frustrated with their consultant and midwife who continued pressuring abortion and had nothing positive to say about their child’s future. He said, “When I asked if they had any leaflets, they just gave us a ripped piece of paper with a website scribbled on. I was thrown into confusion and anger and, looking back, those particular healthcare professionals could’ve swayed a couple less sure of their decision into making a choice they may have regretted.”
Later tests also showed that there was a hole in their baby’s heart. This is very common for children with Down syndrome and many infants need surgery once their born. In fact, half of children with the condition have some sort of heart abnormality. Thankfully, successful surgery usually allows these children to continue growing like any other child with the Down syndrome.
Karen’s pregnancy progressed normally but they became more anxious as time went on. However, a few weeks after the diagnosis they found out some good news. Tom said, “A couple of weeks after the amnio result, I came home from work to find Karen waiting for me at the front door. The hospital had called. “We’re having a girl,” she smiled. I fell to my knees with tears of joy and relief. I’d found something positive to hold on to. I’d always wanted a daughter, and in that moment I began to accept what was happening. I had a daughter to protect.”
They named their daughter Rosie and at six-months-old she went in for heart surgery. Tom said, “It lasted seven and a half hours. Karen and I walked hand-in-hand around the grounds. In my head, I was singing the lyrics, ‘Beautiful girl, stay with me.’ I felt like I was communicating with her. When she came out of surgery, she was taken to intensive care. I sat by her cot and held her hand, and at that moment I realised the fact she had Down’s syndrome was insignificant.”
Tom concluded, “All I wanted was my baby girl home safe. Thankfully, the operation was a success and she was home eight days later. Rosie is now three and a half. She sees a speech and language therapist and play therapist – she’s also just started at our local mainstream nursery. Her brothers are doting, so I can see she’ll be protected as she grows up. I have every reason to believe she’ll lead a full and independent life.’”